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Baltimore -- Composting all organic waste -- including food scraps and yard trimmings -- could eliminate nearly one-third of all materials sent to landfills and trash incinerators across the United States. That’s according to Composting in America, a new report released today by Maryland PIRG Foundation and Frontier Group. The report outlines best practices for composting programs, which are critical for mitigating the negative impact of waste on the climate and public health.
“We all know the mantra: reduce, reuse and recycle,” said Maryland PIRG Foundation Director Emily Scarr. “By reducing food and yard waste through composting, we can pull carbon out of the atmosphere, return nutrients to our soil and replace toxic chemical fertilizers. It’s time for Maryland to embrace composting programs.”
At the end of 2017, only 4 towns and cities out of more than 157 in Maryland offered curbside food waste collection. As a result, most residents have no option but to throw their food remnants into the trash where it inevitably ends up in landfills or incinerators.
"The Wheelabrator Incinerator is Baltimore's worst air polluter, and needs to be shut down," said Todd Cherkis from United Workers. "About 40% of the waste incinerated is food scraps, and it's outrageous we are burning waste instead of composting it. It's time for citywide composting."
Programs like Baltimore Compost Collective and Veteran Compost in Aberdeen show that composting in Maryland is possible and beneficial.
The Baltimore Compost Collective is food scrap collection service serving the Curtis Bay, Federal Hill, Riverside Park & Locust Point neighborhoods. It is run as a youth entrepreneurship program that employs local teenagers and trains them in workforce skills, food access programming and community-scale composting.
Veteran Compost service Aberdeen, Severna Park,, Washington DC, and Fairfax VA and employs veterans and their family members and turn food scraps into high quality compost.
"Composting programs can work in every community -- from small towns to big cities," said Abigail Bradford, policy analyst at Frontier Group and co-author of the report. "What communities may lack is know-how. This report shares experience and tips from communities that have taken simple steps to create successful composting programs."
To make composting programs successful, cities and towns in Maryland should:
- Make them convenient. Offer curbside organic waste pickup along with trash and recycling.
- Make them affordable. Make composting programs less expensive than trash disposal through programs such as Save Money and Reduce Trash (SMART), which charge residents and businesses less if they throw out less trash.
- Institute a commercial composting requirement. Require large commercial organic waste producers, such as grocery stores, to divert waste from landfills and incinerators to composting facilities.
- Support local markets. Local municipalities should buy back locally produced compost for use in public projects or distribute it to residents, community gardens or other local projects to create a steady market for composting facilities.
The report also covers composting’s wide-ranging benefits.
“Imagine if our organic waste -- food scraps, paper towels, yard trimmings -- could help us instead of hurt us,” said Scarr. “With composting, we can make that a reality.”
Maryland PIRG Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation.
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